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First the Natural, Then the Spiritual

Jan 04, 2021

This post is by Cindy Chen.


I can’t depend on a spark of inspiration to motivate me to move. It turns out, it takes discipline and a bit of faith. 

I used to say, flippantly, “I’m not a morning person.” And because I declared I wasn’t, I would stay up late, and then struggle through the morning before work, or getting kids out the door to school. (Remember when kids went to school?) I wished for some inspiration that would wake me before dawn, like a modern-day Pollyanna, wondering breathlessly at what the day might hold. But that never happened. 

Instead, by the practice of simply waking up earlier, and depending on God’s help to make that a priority, I’m now a morning person. Pollyanna? Not quite, but ready to go and leaning on the Holy Spirit to give me the time and energy I need. By drawing on Him, He has made me become what I was not. 

And then there’s fitness. There have been so many mental and physical roadblocks to my “Move Time.” Often I get hung up on what I can not do, and overlook what I can do. Sometimes I gather the kids, put two in the stroller and two on bikes and we go for a walk, but honestly, some days the most exercise I get is from folding laundry. 

Many years ago my pastor was speaking about physical discipline, and he said that often God lets us work out self-discipline in practice and then while we’re walking it out, He puts his life into it. “First the natural, then the spiritual.” 

Paul wrote this regarding the resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:46). We sow one thing, and God births something that we never could. We are physical people, who act in a physical world; when we do anything in obedience, with faith that God will meet us, we make room for something supernatural to happen. 

First the natural, then the spiritual. Without a death or sacrifice of something, nothing can come back to life. 

We tend to think the order is reversed. We want to become athletic, so we can enjoy exercise. We want to be spiritual, so that we can enjoy waking early for prayer and time in the Word. We assume someone was just born devout, or a morning person, or an excellent cook, or a great musician without putting in the tedious practice of becoming each of those things. 

So while I may not be a “runner” yet or even a very “physically active person,” I won’t wait for inspiration to strike. I will take steps in faith, to do a little bit. 

There are a few ways to go about this. I can muscle through, trying to build my muscles, based fully on my own will power. But there’s not much behind that if I can’t muster my motivation one day. Or six days. Or really for the last 18 months since the baby was born. Over the last several years, I have only proven to myself that I have very little within me that can maintain discipline. 

The alternative is to acknowledge my weakness, physical and motivational, and humbly ask God to take what I bring, and surrender my desire to not move my body. It’s a deliberate choice, a living sacrifice. We can trust that the resurrection power He gives will birth something new. 

When I offer my physical activity, however feeble, obeying what I know God has called me to do--even if it’s as simple as stretching in the kitchen while waiting for coffee--I can trust God will meet me and do the transforming work that only comes through obedience. 


Cindy Chen lives outside of Atlanta, GA, with her husband of 15 years, their four children, from toddler to middle-schooler, and a small menagerie of pets and chickens. Cindy occasionally writes about things that matter--and things that don't--on Instagram at @veritiesandvanities , and is diving into homeschooling her kids full time. She serves on several teams at her local church, including the communications team, children's ministry team, and women's ministry team. There is nothing she enjoys more than when great theological truths of the Word are applied with grace and invigorate the seemingly insignificant daily moments.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash


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